Brent S.

American Revolution: The Stamp Act

An act introduced by the British prime minister George Grenville and passed by the British Parliament in 1765 as a means of raising revenue in the American colonies. The Stamp Act required all legal documents, licenses, commercial contracts, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards to carry a tax stamp. The act extended to the colonies the system of stamp duties then employed in Great Britain and was intended to raise money to defray the cost of maintaining the military defenses of the colonies. Passed without debate, it aroused widespread opposition among the colonists, who argued that because they were not represented in Parliament, they could not legally be taxed without their consent.Members of the Sons of Liberty, a patriotic secret society, were particularly active in opposing the imposition of the stamp tax, and they led a campaign of physical violence in which many official stamp agents were attacked by mobs and their property destroyed. Resolutions of protest against the act were adopted by a number of the colonial assemblies. The Virginia House of Burgesses passed five such resolutions offered by the American patriot Patrick Henry. Opposition culminated in the convening of the STAMP ACT CONGRESS, (q.v.) to consider organized means of protesting against the tax. Colonial businessmen agreed to stop importing British goods until the act was repealed, and trade was substantially diminished. Refusal to use the stamps on business papers became common, and the courts would not enforce their use on legal documents. Opposed by the British business community, the act was repealed by the British Parliament on March 4, 1766, after the members of the House of Commons heard the arguments of Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania's representative in London. Repeal was accompanied by the Declaratory Act, which affirmed the right of the British government to pass acts legally binding on the colonists. The unity of the American colonists in their opposition to the Stamp Act contributed substantially to the rise of American nationalist sentiment, and the conflict between the colonists and the British government over the Stamp Act is often considered one of the chief immediate causes of the American Revolution.
Encyclopedia article from Discovery Education.